About Compassionate Communication
Immigration, Faith Development

Adapted from the Ethical Eating Study Guide by Rev. John Gibb Millspaugh.

Delegates at General Assembly 2010 took a bold step when they chose immigration as the issue for our congregational study and action over the next four years. At the moment, immigration is a highly contentious topic both in the U.S. and in other parts of the world. As Unitarian Universalists (UUs) in hundreds of congregations engage the complex issues surrounding immigration, there will be members with different opinions formed from different life experiences and at different places in our collective understanding of the issue. Positions on this issue can be very emotional. For some of us, it touches on feelings of safety, both economic and physical. For others, it touches on issues of identity and belonging. There will be disagreement. But we must remember that everyone is trying to seek justice, as they know it. And we are called by our third principle to accept one another in mutual covenantal fellowship even as we encourage each other towards spiritual growth.

Compassionate Communication, based on Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication method, is a tool for resolving differences. It has been used in our last two congregational study action issues, starting with “Peacemaking” (2006-2010) and continuing with “Ethical Eating” (2008-2012). We recommend that course facilitators/discussion leaders review some of the following “Compassionate Communication” resources (liberally borrowed from the Ethical Eating resource guide) before engaging in this subject with the congregation.

Questions for Individual or Group Reflection

  1. What makes immigration a difficult topic to discuss?
  2. What outcome do I want when I engage in discussion with someone with whom I disagree?
  3.  How do we remain in right relationship during a difficult discussion?
  4. How can leaders promote compassionate communication in the congregation?
  5. How do culture, economics, and families of origin affect the different ways we see immigration?


Rosenberg, Marshall B. Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. Chicago: PuddleDancer Press, 2001.

This method of teaching effective, peaceful communication offers practical tools and experiential learning about how to talk to others with compassion and success. It focuses on empathetic listening and f feelings.

Leu, Lucy: Communication Companion Workbook: A Practical Guide for Individual, Group or Classroom Study (Nonviolent Communication Guides.)

A simple method with powerful results, easily used by congregations negotiating challenging conversations about immigration.

d’Ansembourg, Thomas. Being Genuine: Stop Being Nice, Start Being Real. Chicago: PuddleDancer Press, 2007.

This guide teaches communication skills to help readers manage difficult discussions and issues with ease. Topics include identifying feelings and needs without blame, honest and respectful self-expression, facing conflict with ease, and finding balance.

Rosenberg, Marshall B. The Basics of NonViolent Communication: An Introductory Training in NonViolent Communication. Albuquerque, 2001.

2 DVD set - approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes, about 50 minutes per session. Using the basics of non-violent communication, Mr. Rosenberg demonstrates how to discuss challenging issues ina way that meet everybody’s needs.

The Center for Nonviolent Communication 
A global organization helping people connect compassionately with themselves and one another through Nonviolent Communication language. Site offers many resources, training opportunities, and newsletter.

UU Speak Peace 
Compassionate Communication Consciousness for Congregations  Supporting UUs learning and practicing Compassionate (Nonviolent) Communication and other interpersonal peacemaking skills and approaches. An email list is available for UUs interested in Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication and other approaches to interpersonal peacemaking.

For more information contact socialwitness@uua.org.

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